superchat paris: clarent dehlouz

© frenchtrotters - founders clarent and carole dehlouz

a multibrand emporium that has introduced a slew of cool contemporary brands to paris, frenchtrotters continues to explore opportunities to innovate and improve its carefully conceptualized formula. founded in 2005 by clarent and carole dehlouz, the store was borne out of an avid interest in travel, art, design and fashion. the husband-and-wife duo met while still in college and after graduation both initially pursued a career in the arts. they worked and traveled extensively abroad, visiting repeatedly global hubs such as new york, london and tokyo. sharing many mutual interests and passions, they came across inspiring concepts that they were missing back home in paris. both have a mixed cultural background and this has not only contributed a great deal to their focus on all things new, but has also infused frenchtrotters' retail formula with additional flair. co-founder clarent dehlouz talks to superfuture about retail, style and what they're up to next.

do tell us about your stores. you currently have three, all of them located in paris. how did it all start? well, it was all just an idea first. we obviously lacked experience in retail and decided to develop our concept slowly, a little step at a time. from the very beginning we set out to include only things that we love and are passionate about. our initial store had to be a place with a distinct personal touch and vibe. the brands you’d find at our stores have specific aesthetics. they’re contemporary and often have a subtle, understated look. we’re not much of a fan of a full-on luxury look. we’ve actually introduced quite a few new labels to the french market such as acne and filippa k. as a matter of fact, our store was the first overseas point of sale of engineered garments, way before that brand became hugely popular worldwide.

the people behind engineered garments have become good friends of ours. you know, we very much value good relations whether it’s with our suppliers or clients, especially those of our first store on rue de charonne. it’s beneficial for us in more ways than one as they provide us with a wider perspective in terms of input. for instance, it has been our customers who inspired and stimulated us to expand our offerings to furniture and homewares. that’s why a personal approach remains very much key in our store concept, and when training our staff we emphasize the importance and try to instill this specific element. we decided to open up shop in the marais in 2008 because it had a similar neighbourhood feel as bastille, the area where our first store is located, and because at the time there was a gap in the market. we were the first multibrand menswear store to launch there.

what does your daily routine look like, do you divide tasks between you and your wife carole? we both used to spend a lot of time in our stores but nowadays that’s less the case. the daily management of our stores is going well so my wife and i currently focus more on the frenchtrotters apparel line that we established. i’m involved with the design of the men’s collection and also the newly launched wholesale activities. it’s going very well, we’re currently available at a around 40 shops in france and abroad. carole is now mostly preoccupied with the design of our women’s collection.

what’s the profile of your customer? and is there a difference between shoppers in the bastille and marais areas? that’s a difficult one to answer! we actually have many different kinds of customers. let me try to answer that question from the perspective of our merchandise. frenchtrotters is a store that aims to be accessible in terms of style and price, while steering clear of being a hipster destination. as said, we don’t like fashion with garish luxury aesthetics and prefer a more low-key style. a lot of creatives like to shop at frenchtrotters, such as architects and illustrators. but there’s also quite a few lawyers and bankers that drop by. the people that shop at our rue de charonne store are definitely more locals whereas the ones in the marais are a mix of locals and tourists. obviously because that area is more of a nucleus of fashion boutiques and has had far more international exposure because of it.

which brands are popular at frenchtrotters right now? our own label is actually quite popular. It has gained a sizeable following since we launched it. the same counts for the various collab items that we do with other brands. we’re quite picky as we’d rather create something special than engage in a collab just for the thrill of it.

do you have any new brands in mind that you’d like to stock at frenchtrotters? we’re pretty careful when it comes to adding new brands, they should be compatible with the range we already have on the shelves. but two cool ones we’ve recently added are nanamica and barena.

what are your plans for the future, is there anything you can share with us? as said, we just started wholesale operations for our own frenchtrotters label and i envisage a steady growth in that department. that's why i’m also thinking of opening monobrand stores for the label, but that's to happen in one or two years from now at the soonest. another idea that popped up in my mind is opening a cozy café or bistro here in paris, something that would be an extrapolation of sorts from our retail operations with a similar, also with a carefully developed identity and aesthetics. further away from home we’ll be launching a shop-in-shop at unionmade in san francisco, one of our fav stores stateside our very first venture there. additionally, we've also got plans up our sleeve for japan. it has been a big market for us since the beginning and we’re discussing collaborations with leading japanese retailers regarding shop-in-shops, and special capsule collections. 

where do you like to hang out in paris when you have time off, any fav spots you can share? sure! in our old neighbourhood there's craft [1], a well-designed place where to hang out with your laptop, and they serve good coffee too. a little further away is one of our secret faves, la barcarola da angelo [2]. it's a simple italian restaurant with truly delicious food and a very welcoming atmosphere. another fav restaurant of ours is l'office [3], a small and intimate dining spot where guests can only choose between two starters, two main courses and two desserts, in addition to a very fine selection of wines. also in and around the marais area there's candelaria [4], a funky bar hidden behind a small taco joint and where they serve great cocktails. also check out the impossible project space [5] for retro-cool polaroid cameras and films.

location [1]: 24 rue des vinaigriers [bastille]. location [2]: 51 rue basfroi [canal st.-martin]. location [3]: 3 rue richer [canal st.-martin]. location [4]: 52 rue de saintonge [marais]. location [5]: 77 rue charlot [marais].